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The coupla weeks in books

September 30, 2012

Hey all! I’m back from vacation. Did you miss me? I did. I missed regular internet access (sort of) and the ability to charge my iPod (especially when my camera died in…Kilarney?) and especially my kids at the library! They are so awesome.

But on to the books!

Picture books!

Emma Dodd fails to wow me again with Foxy. It’s the story of a little girl who has a magic fox and some anxiety about her first day of school. The fox makes some magical oopses but…the girl is ADORABLE but the art isn’t quite working for me. Did I say that last time too?

The Gingerbread Pirates by Kristin Kadstrup combines two of my favorite things: pirates and Christmas. Okay, I really love Halloween best but Christmas can be nice. And Matt Tavares’s art is cute as a candy button. A boy makes gingerbread pirate cookies but he doesn’t want Santa to eat his cool captain. Then the captain wakes up and Nutcrackers it up all over the place. Nice.

I finally got my hands on Phineas and Ferb: The Easter Eggs-travaganza in the hopes it would give me a background on the characters. My daughter started watching it and then got too old (it’s all Death Note and Torchwood and Top Gear now–that’s my girl!), so I never did get what the platypus is doing there. I feel that when you’re writing for children, you also need to throw that little something into the mix for the parents–like, say,a Baby-Sitters’ Club-level introduction of who everyone else. But this book, by Scott Peterson, does not do that at all, and I am more confused than anything after reading it. At least it comes with stickers.

For some reason, I don’t have my own copy of Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs by Mo Willems, but that didn’t stop me from grabbing another branch’s so we can do another Mo storytime, because Mo is the best. Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs is hilarious, and Mo is the king.

I cannot quite figure out who Susanna Reich’s Minette’s Feast is written for, since there’s a touch of not-really-a-kids’-book to it. The book is, for those who are unaware, about Julia Child’s kitty Minette. Is the book for very cultured little children? Fancy Nancy fans, maybe, with adventurous palates? Having read My Life in France, I feel like this is a really short, cat’s eye-perspective, bringing little to the table (so to speak) other than some French words. Still, I did enjoy Amy Bates’s pictures of Julia Child, and I enjoyed Reich’s personal note at the end.

I finally got a chance to read a Llama Llama book! This one’s Llama Llama Time to Share, and it’s a cute book with strong rhymes which discuss sharing in a very real way, despite the llamas and gnus. Good one from Anna Dewdney.

We ordered a fresh new copy of Horton Hears a Who! I believe I read this with my daughter once when she was little, but I don’t believe we owned it, and I didn’t own it myself when I was little, so although I was pretty sure I knew the story, it was good to read, if for no other reason than to read something that rhymes perfectly and actually flows. (Llama is good but once or twice I had to reread a line to figure out how it was supposed to flow.) Horton has a lot of interesting things going on with it–and of course, the Whos down in Whoville, yay! The Grinch is THAT small? Huh. How insignificant. But anyway, great book, loved it, awesome, too long for storytime, I think, but that’s always the Seussian way.

Frankenstein: A Monstrous Parody by Ludworst Bemonster (Rick Walton/Nathan Hale) is a play off of Madeline, and it’s pretty cute and funny and now it’s leaving me wondering if Madeline ends as abruptly and it’s a clever way to point that out. Huh. But yeah, in this, Madeline is Frankenstein, and I think I’ll read this one for a Halloween story time.

David Ezra Stein’s Because Amelia Smiled is a charming ’round-the-world, pay-it-forward kind of story. However, I can’t say I’m fond of the art, which is a pencil/crayon/watercolor combination that leaves the reader focusing hard just to see what’s going on.

The Berenstain Bears and the Prize Pumpkin is a oldie of a Thanksgiving story with not a ton of Thanksgiving in it. Papa Bear comes off as a low-key Homer Simpson. The moral-giving poem in the beginning is awkward. Everything at the end is super-rushed. But until then–really good! And you know kids aren’t as critical as I am.

Lalaloopsy: Christmas Magic is the story of a moron who gets rewarded for not slowing down. Le sigh. And of course, as always, DEAD EYES.

Lego City: Save This Christmas! is the story of an inept, weaponless cop looking for attention, and lots of it–in fact, he won’t even stop criminals until he has an audience. A total stinker from Rebecca McCarthy.

How Do Dinosaurs Say Merry Christmas? by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague is another winner in the series. I like this one because it’s a lot easier to tell that the dinos are just stand-ins for the kids, because of the differences in the families. And, of course, it’s all about manners without being blatant (although I’d say it’s more blatant than some of the others).

One day, ONE DAY, Caillou’s painfully irritating voice won’t be in my head every time I read a new book. I have Caillou: Happy Halloween and Caillou: Happy Thanksgiving. The Halloween book, by Francine Allen, is insipid, but the Thanksgiving one, by Sarah Margaret Johanson, is pretty cute. Oh, and Caillou: Merry Christmas is there, but it’s not that good either. That one’s by Johanne Mercier.

We got some Amy Ehlich/Susan Jeffers fairy tales in, and I have to say…The Snow Queen is way trippier than the shortened version I read when I was a kid. So much stuff going on! So overcomplicated for a fairy tale! Hansel & Gretel is, like…it doesn’t HAVE to be a stepmother, why is it a stepmother? I don’t know. I’m far more critical of fairy tales since I did my senior seminar paper on them (and the comic book Fables). I usually love retellings, but there’s nothing coming to the table here except some decent art. And even then, the art can be a little odd, and the faces a little…bland?

Joanna Cole’s I’m a Big Sister is a simple story of being a big sister–the good, the bad. Looks like the art was updated by Rosalinda Kightly. From what I can tell, looks like the older Cole books we have, with a bit of a modern spin. I like it, and I’ll recommend the book too.

Mem Fox’s Tell Me About Your Day Today is about a little boy discussing his day with his stuffed animals. It’s an interesting way of telling the story–the reader has to extrapolate, until the little boy’s day brings it all together. Love Lauren Stringer’s colors and toys but not so sure about her human faces.

Humphrey’s First Palm Sunday by Carol Heyer is a hilarious book wasted on a weak religious message. Humphrey is hilarious, but Christ is kind of shoehorned in, and it’s definitely a sequel, so I felt like “Ehhh, I’m missing something here.” It could’ve easily felt stronger without the assumption that the person had read the book before. Heyer should be super-popular, she’s so talented with her funny, gorgeous pictures, but instead she’s doing these religious books and I’ve never heard of her before–although maybe we have the first Humphrey, because HE sounds familiar. I guess if you’re called to write about God, you write about God. Also, I didn’t come out of this having any greater idea of what Palm Sunday is, so, um.

Karma Wilson’s Bear Says Thanks isn’t quite a Thanksgiving story, but it isn’t quite not a Thanksgiving story either. Everyone gathers together with all the lovely autumn colors and they eat a bunch of food together, and everyone says “Thanks.” So. Thanksgiving…ish. You know how I feel about Karma Wilson and her occasionally-awkward rhymes, so there’s that. Jane Chapman’s art is wonderful, as always. Is her style evolving a bit? Is it a little softer? I don’t know. That’s how it seemed to me. I like it.

Moby Dick: Chasing the Great White Whale is one of those books that you’re like “Um…why?” Eric A. Kimmel may do an admirable job retelling the story of Moby Dick for little guys except for the fact that it just doesn’t work for me. It never feels like a story that needs to be told. At all. Not even a little. (As to the style of the telling–I’ve never read the original, so I don’t know.) Andrew Glass’s oil-and-pencil paintings of the ocean are amazing, but the faces of the characters are indistinct and make the characters seem too alike. Don’t like it, don’t see it going out much, but I’m willing to be surprised.

Olivia and the Fairy Princess may or may not be my first Ian Falconer Olivia book, but it sure is a good one. Kids may not GET Olivia but they’ll GET Olivia, if you know what I mean. Totally reading this for fractured fairy tales.

Easy Readers!

Toy Story: Christmas Toys by Jennifer Weinberg is a cute little tale of the toys having their own holiday celebration due to a serious lack of Andy. The details of the celebration are adorable and the level-2 sentences are simple but tie together, really showing what I’ve enjoyed about the Disney/Pixar Easy Readers all this time. You CAN take a few words and pictures and tell a charming story, ER writers. You CAN.

There’s a Fly Guy in My Soup! is another waste-of-space Fly Guy book by Tedd Arnold. I WANT to like Fly Guy, but the books are so…miss. I don’t even want to say hit-or-miss because I’ve never read one I fully enjoyed, I don’t think. Just “eh” to “EH.”

Annie and Snowball and the Grandmother Night is a feel-good story from Cynthia Rylant about sleeping over with one’s beloved grandma. The art, by Sucie Stevenson, looks a little blurrier than usual. What’s up with that?

The Tooth Book by Theo LeSieg (Dr. Seuss) feels a little tossed out but hey, it’s a book about teeth that isn’t boring. Awesome.

Pocoyo’s level one reader Surprise for Pocoyo sure does use a lot of white space. However, it introduces the characters! Tells a quick story! Works for me! So difficult on a TV show book, and yet here we are. Good job, Christy Webster.

Non-fiction!

Craig Kielburger’s Lessons from a Street Kid awkwardly tells a good lesson, but if there’s ever a book that doesn’t match its art, it’s this one. Marisa Antonello and Victoria Laidley create some fun, colorful, cartoony images, but when you’re talking about poverty, is “cartoony” really what you should be going for? Craig Kielburger created Free the Children when he was a twelve-year old (or, as the book puts it, a “twelve-year-old” which is a mistake that never should have gone through as many times as it did), and this chronicles his time in Brazil. Apparently, even though people speak in Portuguese, all the signs are in English. Sigh. So many beginner mistakes made here in this children’s book.

Really, can I be considered at least a sort-of expert if I’ve read thousands of these things?

OH FOR GOD’S SAKE WHY DOES THIS THING SOMETIMES SAVE TAGS AND SOMETIMES NOT??

Okay, so this isn’t the full amount of books that came in while I was gone, but I have to say, if I put these tags in one more time, save, and find them gone? My head will explode. So instead I will set this to post now, and start again with another set of disappearing tags.

…Okay, I think tags are altogether broken. So I’m going to save this draft, hope it sticks and that the tags are finished later, and maybe write something else for a change.

Edit: Next day, tags are still broken. This bites. I’m going to try from a different browser next.

…Yay, finally.

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